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Friday, November 18, 2011

Exeter, Portsmouth, BG in line for titles

Gary Fitz

Before its mid-season loss to Brockton (Mass.), the Pinkerton Academy football team seemed on the cusp of immortality.

They were trampling in-state opponents, and by the end of the season it was thought, by some, that the Astros would take their place among the top teams in state history.

The 21-14 loss to an ordinary Brockton team (5-5) – by Brockton standards – might have knocked Pinkerton down a peg, but the 10-1 Astros are still pretty good, which they proved again last Saturday with a 38-20 semifinal victory over Salem.

The questions Saturday in Derry will be if 10-1 Exeter, a 17-7 semifinal winner over Nashua South, has improved enough over the last six weeks to give them a game.

The 42-16 loss to Pinkerton, on their home turf Oct. 6 wasn’t pretty. The Astros chewed up the Bill Ball Stadium turf that night to the tune of 459 yards rushing, including an incredible 288 on just eight carries by senior Emmitt Smith, including touchdown runs of 98 and 80 yards.

Kevin Davies, Pinkerton’s big, quick, battering ram of a fullback added 121 yard on nine carries that night. Smith and Davies are both close to 1,300 yards on the season, with the later averaging an incredible 12.1 yards per carry.

And divert your attention from Davies and Smith for a minute and sophomore scat back Manny Lattimore will kill you. The future of Pinkerton football carried the ball five times against Salem last week for 109 yards.

Exeter’s bests chance is preventing the big play and playing keep away, and nobody does it better than the Blue Hawks and their “3 yards and a cloud of dust’’ Straight T offense.

In its semifinal victory over South, Exeter’s 1,000-yard rusher, junior Tyler Grant, lugged it 36 times for 226 yards, while doubling as a starting cornerback.

Exeter coach Bill Ball thinks his team is much improved since that Thursday night, pre-Yom Kippur, loss to the Astros. The numbers bear him out. His Blue Hawks held Nashua South potent offense to just seven points in each of their two games.

No back since the Pinkerton game has rushed for 100 yards against Exeter, with Salem’s 1,600-yard rusher Jerickson Fedrick coming closest (18 carries for 87 yards).

In two games against South, they held South’s 1,000-yard rusher Armond McRae to a combined 78 yards on 24 carries.

Manchester Central managed just 24 yards rushing in a 24-14 loss to Exeter. Exeter allowed just 41 points in its last five games, including two games with South and games with Central and Salem.

THE PICKS

EXETER 17, PINKERTON 14 – An upset, but not a huge one, as the title game comes down to a good ol’ defense struggle.

BG 28, DOVER 21 – The Cards find a way as they bow out of Division II with a seventh title in eight years.

PORTSMOUTH 21, BEDFORD 20 – Life in the fast (Billy) Lane finally pays off for the Clippers in their fourth straight title game and first victory.

LAST WEEK: 4-1.

SEASON: 36-14.

Gary Fitz can be reached at 594-6469 or gfitz@nashuatelegraph.com.